Friday, 30 July 2010

Doctor Who: The Doctor's Daughter

“Hello, Dad!”

Wow. I was expecting this to be average-to-good going by my memories, which are fairly recent, after all. Stephen Greenhorn’s last effort was a bit meh, too. And yet this has just blown me away. It’s superb.

Martha’s back, which means some great character stuff for all the regulars (back to that in a bit), but also a larger TARDIS crew, which allows for what feels like an uber-traditional episode of Doctor Who. In fact the first five minutes see our heroes split up and separated from the TARDIS, and Martha’s experiences and those of the Doctor and Donna mirror each other for the early part of the episode. The Hartnell vibes couldn’t be much more blatant. And the whole thing feels very “trad Who”.

The pre-titles teaser is fab, of course, and so’s Georgia Moffat. And the Doctor’s reaction to the fact that he has a daughter leads to some superbly played scenes with Tennant and Tate. Donna as a character is fantastic here, able to take the proverbial out of the Doctor as no one else can. I still love her. Oh, and she’s the one who works out the mystery at the end. She’s great, but by now it’s becoming clear that her arc is building up to something. She can’t carry on having this much fun and being this fab without being brought down to Earth with a bump- her final comment to Martha about wanting to travel in the TARDIS forever makes it clear that something’s coming. Such is how the RTD universe works. That’s what happened with Rose back in Season 28- again, RTD repeating his own tropes, and again, not a problem at this point but it’s clear that RTD’s song will end soon.

Martha gets an interesting character arc here; initially reluctant to travel in the TARDIS because she’s aware there’s always a cost, she’s soon enjoying herself anyway (“I love this bit!”). And she proves to be brilliant, even more so than before, as symbolised by her insistence on using her medical skills to help with the dislocated shoulder of one of the Hath who’s captured her. Shades of The Smugglers there. She’s also brilliant in the way she takes the alternative route over ground to the mysterious “Source”. Shades of The Five Doctors there. And yet… only one non-redshirt dies in the whole story, and it happens on Martha’s watch as the Hath dies saving her. Martha is heartbroken; symbolically, she suffers this but Donna doesn’t, having fun down below. This is innocence versus experience; the dark side of time travel will catch up with Donna one day. It’s a good proper farewell for Martha, though. Fittingly, both of them finally address each other as “Doctor” as they part.

Jenny is an extremely cool character. Her personality is a bit superficial, perhaps, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s underwritten. She’s cool; a kind of Doctor-in-training who can dance through laser beams and gets a great ending. Plus, she’s a proper Time Lady. She’s got two hearts and, er, she was loomed. Sorry.

There’s some good stuff for the Doctor, too- Tennant is particularly good here- with some interesting revelations about his having fathered children, plural. And yet… there’s something not quite right about the extreme pacifism he displays here, especially at the end. I know I keep banging on about this, but this Marathon has shown that the Doctor may feel guns cramp his style, but he’s happy to use them when absolutely necessary, or even if not, if he’s in Frontier in Space. Plus there’s the blowing stuff up, and the Venusian Aikido. All this stuff about the Doctor being an uber-pacifist only came along very late, if at all.

And yet… could that be what we’re supposed to think? The exchanges with Jenny about war, which he doesn’t entirely win, suggest it might be. Could it be that this Doctor retains some of the war-weariness from the Time War, and that this is causing him to exaggerate his pacifistic streak?

Lots of food for thought here with the development of the characters. Plus, the plot is great, proper hard sci-fi, with a good twist at the end as it’s revealed how long the war’s been going on for. There’s not a lot wrong with this one. 5/5.

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